fbpx
Monday, September 28, 2020

A Jewish Mother Emerges From ‘Under the Jello Mold’

Before Joyce Kaplan died in 2012, she wrote a set of specific instructions for her daughter, Jennie Fahn, and reminded her daily of exactly where they were hidden in a kitchen cabinet.

“Under the Jello Mold” became the title of Fahn’s poignant, funny, solo show about her mother, which she is performing Sundays at the Pico Playhouse Theatre through Aug. 26.

Playing her mother, herself and every supporting character, Fahn re-enacts stories through which Joyce’s colorful personality emerges. These include incidents involving a stolen purse, a Thanksgiving dinner argument, an emotional cemetery visit and the revelation of a family secret.

A former dancer with a penchant for wigs and high-heeled mules, Joyce was diminutive but larger than life — nagging, overcritical, inappropriate and often crude, although she still comes across onstage as lovable. It’s apparent in the show that Fahn misses her mother terribly.

“Sometimes, as I’m rehearsing the lines, I burst into tears,” Fahn said after a preview performance. “It’s emotional, but actually it’s very joyful for me. I feel like I’m paying tribute to her every time I do it. It’s cathartic. I love telling this story and sharing her with people.”

Inevitably, that works both ways. “After the show, people end up staying and telling me stories about their moms,” she said. “They want to have that conversation. That’s my favorite part and kind of why I did the show. It opens the door and gives people permission to talk about [death], to laugh and to cry.”

“Everyone has a Jello story. It doesn’t mean it’s about Jello. Everyone has a family secret or a crazy relative.”  —  Jennie Fahn

Fahn’s previous solo work, “You Mutha,” was also about mothers and included Joyce and herself as characters. But in the decade between writing that show and Joyce’s death, “there were a lot more stories to be culled about her life and death,” Fahn said. “I had them in my head and finally decided to put them down on paper.”

“Under the Jello Mold” premiered in Los Angeles at the Fringe Festival in June 2017 and won three awards, including Best Solo Performance. Fahn recently performed it in Washington, D.C., at an alumni reunion from the theater department at Georgetown University, her alma mater. She hopes to take it on tour, have a run in New York and see a TV series version in the works “that goes deeper. I’d love for a wider audience to see it,” she said. She also is writing a movie script and another solo show focusing on her mother and brother. 

Fahn, 51, grew up in a Conservative Jewish home in Merrick, on New York’s Long Island. “We weren’t super religious but we belonged to a temple and we were very involved there,” she said. She studied for her bat mitzvah but didn’t have one, in protest. “I thought all the bat mitzvahs were way too over the top and I wasn’t into that whole scene,” she explained. 

Performing was her childhood dream, but she studied marketing at Georgetown, intending to go into advertising. But during her senior year she acted in plays and reversed that decision. She worked at a children’s theater for a year and a half and then booked a Northeast tour of “Fiddler on the Roof,” playing Tevye’s youngest daughter, Bielke, and Grandma Tzeitel. 

Fahn moved west in 1991 with an ex-boyfriend. She met her husband, Jonathan, also an actor and New York native, in Los Angeles. They married in “a big schmaltzy wedding” on Long Island in 1993. The have two sons, Harry, a recent UC Berkeley graduate, and Sammy, a high school student. 

The family belongs to Temple Isaiah, where Fahn serves on several committees, including the Gun Legislation Advocacy Committee. She’s also involved with Jewish World Watch. Although she’s not religious, “I’m very spiritual, and I want to make a difference in the world,” she said. “Social justice is very important to me, and I want to express that through theater, make an impact on people by leaving them with a positive message.”

Fahn, who has appeared in Netflix’s “One Day at a Time,” currently has a recurring role in the Showtime series “I’m Dying Up Here” as the Polish deli owner and has a role in the upcoming online comedy “Hotel du Loone.” But she’s proudest of “Under the Jello Mold” “because it has an effect on people. No matter who you are, there’s something you can relate to in the story,” she said. “Everyone has a Jello story. It doesn’t mean it’s about Jello. Everyone has a family secret or a crazy relative. There’s something for everyone in it that’s relatable.”

As for Joyce’s actual Jello mold, it’s currently in storage in Fahn’s garage, but the space is being converted into an apartment for her widowed mother-in-law. “I guess I’ll have to bring it inside now,” she said.

“Under the Jello Mold” runs Sundays from June 17-Aug. 26 at the Pico Playhouse Theatre.

Did you enjoy this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Latest Articles

Politics at Kol Nidre: Yes or No?

Once a rabbi starts to promote specific policies to address societal ills, the message becomes a source of communal division. Two people can share a concern for a problem without agreeing on the solution. Once a rabbi picks a side on solutions, we’re back to divisive partisanship.

Avoiding Politics Is a Political Act, No Matter What Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Says

Political neutrality is a form of political expression supporting those in power or those destined to remain in power without the voice of opposition.

Break the Fast with Jonah and the Whale Placemats

After reading the story of Jonah on Yom Kippur, what better way to break the fast than with a meal featuring these Jonah and the Whale placemats? 

Israel File Appendix: Numbers Under Lockdown

The weighted average below takes into account the timing of the poll (more recent, more important); the number of people surveyed (more people, more...

It’s Time to Look at Palestinian-Israeli Conflict With Fresh Eyes

How the Abraham Accords were achieved and what the “Palestinian cause” now requires.

Can We Forgive Each Other in the Midst of a Tribal Culture War?

At a time when Jews are supposed to look within and admit fault, too many of us are virtue signaling and delegitimizing our opponents. Can we stop?

150-Year-Old Time Capsule Found in a Wall of Oldest Synagogue in British City

Construction workers at the site of a former Spanish and Portuguese synagogue in Manchester, England, found a time capsule from the 1870s.

What Does it Mean to Have a Deeper Yom Kippur?

Rosh Hashanah begins the work. Yom Kippur seals it. But only if you are willing to go deep.

Lisa Edelstein Joins the Cast of ‘ 9-1-1 Lone Star’

Lisa Edelstein (“House,” “The Good Doctor”) has joined the cast of FOX’s “9-1-1 Lone Star” as the ex-wife of the fire captain played by...

AOC Withdraws From Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Event Following Pro-Palestinian Criticism

The event will be held in October by Americans for Peace Now.

Culture

Break the Fast with Jonah and the Whale Placemats

After reading the story of Jonah on Yom Kippur, what better way to break the fast than with a meal featuring these Jonah and the Whale placemats? 

Lisa Edelstein Joins the Cast of ‘ 9-1-1 Lone Star’

Lisa Edelstein (“House,” “The Good Doctor”) has joined the cast of FOX’s “9-1-1 Lone Star” as the ex-wife of the fire captain played by...

Prosecutors Drop Solicitation Charges Against Patriots Owner Robert Kraft

They said they didn't have a case when they couldn't use a video for their case.

‘RBG’ Filmmaker Julie Cohen on Justice Ginsburg’s Death: ‘I Was Stunned’

Cohen made her comments during a Zoom event with Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival Executive Director Hilary Helstein on Sept. 24. 

Dr. Mandy Cohen on Guiding North Carolina’s Pandemic Response Wearing a Chai Necklace

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Mandy Cohen has provided steady guidance to the people of North Carolina. As the secretary of the North Carolina...

Latest Articles
Latest

Politics at Kol Nidre: Yes or No?

Once a rabbi starts to promote specific policies to address societal ills, the message becomes a source of communal division. Two people can share a concern for a problem without agreeing on the solution. Once a rabbi picks a side on solutions, we’re back to divisive partisanship.

Avoiding Politics Is a Political Act, No Matter What Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Says

Political neutrality is a form of political expression supporting those in power or those destined to remain in power without the voice of opposition.

Break the Fast with Jonah and the Whale Placemats

After reading the story of Jonah on Yom Kippur, what better way to break the fast than with a meal featuring these Jonah and the Whale placemats? 

Israel File Appendix: Numbers Under Lockdown

The weighted average below takes into account the timing of the poll (more recent, more important); the number of people surveyed (more people, more...

It’s Time to Look at Palestinian-Israeli Conflict With Fresh Eyes

How the Abraham Accords were achieved and what the “Palestinian cause” now requires.

Hollywood

‘Dirty Dancing’ Sequel Starring Jennifer Grey Announced

It’s official: A “Dirty Dancing” sequel is coming, and it’s starring Jewish actress Jennifer Grey, who played Frances “Baby” Houseman in the 1987 original.

Roy Moore’s Lawsuit Against Sacha Baron Cohen Over Being Pranked Can Proceed, Judge Rules

By the time the episode aired, it was widely known that Cohen was punking public figures.

Podcasts

Pandemic Times Episode 90: Yom Kippur in a Pandemic Can Be Our Most Meaningful

New David Suissa Podcast Every Tuesday and Friday. Reflections from Rabbi Mordecai Finley on going deep on Judaism's holiest day. How do we manage our lives...

Pandemic Times Episode 89: Honoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg

New David Suissa Podcast Every Tuesday and Friday. Reflections on the life and legacy of a Jewish and American hero. How do we manage our lives...

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

x